Taos artist Peter Parks said he discovered painting in 1969, and “knew immediately it would be my voice. I consider myself a non-objective action painter. While my paintings are drawn from aspects of the mesa and nature and a looking for the light, I let the paint speak for itself and I step aside.”
“I feel that art is a necessity — and this is how I can give back.”
Parks’ abstract expressionist paintings are featured in a show on view through November at Greg Moon Art Studio, 109A Kit Carson Road.
“This is incredible stuff,” says venue owner Greg Moon of Parks’ newest works. “He is one of the best non-objective abstract painters in the state. When I went by his place and saw this new body of work I was like ‘oh my god!’ so we put this show together. I want other people to see his work.”
Parks is not an artist actively seeking the limelight however. Even for this article he was hesitant to talk much. He kindly declined a number of questions. He hopes his art speaks for itself.
“Some artists do one thing — wake up in the morning and make art. I never hear from them. They are making art. I am always moved when I have the great joy of working with this type of artist. They are rare, authentic, and riding on a wave of pure discovery,” says Jina Brenneman, curator of collections and exhibitions at the Harwood Museum of Art, where the artist’s work is currently featured on the museum’s Curator’s Wall.
Parks paints to paint. He paints because he is driven to paint as the process and action itself seems to be a fundamental piece of his very identity. “My paintings are just about the process of painting and nothing else,” he says.
Parks was raised in Ohio but spent much of his teen years in Europe, going to school in Switzerland and spending extensive periods of time on the Greek island of Mikanos and in Rome. In an undated press release from a previous show, Parks stated that, after returning to the United States in 1965 he enlisted in the military because “I wanted to go back to Europe, so I enlisted in the airborne ... so I could go to Germany.” As it turned out, that move led him to a one-year combat tour in Vietnam.
When his tour of duty ended Parks studied at the San Francisco Art Institute. He chose to make Taos his home from 1971-79 and his first show was at the Stables Gallery in 1978.
“Serendipity brought me to Taos from the Bay area in February 1971. I arrived on a snowy night at the old bus station with a suitcase full of paints, knowing there was a small, quiet art community and felt an immediate attachment,” Parks said.
“I was influenced by European painting along with Abstract Expressionism, and related very much to the Taos painters with their splashes of pure color. It was nice in the 70s sharing painting experiences with fellow artists. And that is what keeps me here — an awesome community of artists and art appreciation.”
Parks later went on to study at the Art Students League in New York before returning to Taos in the late 1980s.
“It is transcendental and meditative work,” says Moon. “Parks doesn’t go into his process with a pre-conceived notion of where he is going with his work. When you look at it you can see that the pigment is allowed to drip on the canvass but not in a Pollack sort of way. It drips and then has permission to run and build up a history on the surface.”
Brenneman has a slightly different reaction to Parks’ work. “Honestly, my first response is to want to eat it. It is deep and rich and mysterious. It comes out of some place outside of self. Peter is really good at tapping into some form of sub consciousness,” she said.
Parks has his own take, naturally. “For me it is about finding the essence of the painting. It is a discovery through trial and error and an understanding of the medium.”
Moon says “people need to get out and see this stuff. I don’t care if they buy or not. They need to experience it. We are still a relevant market here and people like Parks keep Taos a relevant market. We still have top-notch artists here and Parks is one of them.”
“I would encourage every artist who considers themselves a ‘serious artist’ to closely examine their commitment to the actual act of art making,” Brenneman said. “It is a world unto itself and has nothing to do with recognition, fame, finance or marketing. It is a hard life, but nobler than anything I can think of in this existence. Peter Parks is doing it. I feel honored to know him.”
Parks’ work will be on view at the Harwood through Jan. 26, 2014.
For more on the Greg Moon show, call (575) 770-4463. Visit gregmoonart.com. Visit the artist’s website at peterparkspaintings.com/home